The Montreal Canadiens lost again last night, allowing four goals in the first period to the Columbus Blue Jackets and eventually going down 6-3. The team is now 8-29-7 on the year, a points percentage of .261 that would be the very worst of the salary cap era–even worse than the Detroit Red Wings 17-49-5 2019-20 campaign. While they continue to suffer brutal results on the ice, a new management group will need to make some decisions on where to go from here.
One player that has been regarded as someone who will definitely be traded by the March 21 deadline is Ben Chiarot, given his position as a reasonably-priced pending UFA. Chiarot’s three-year, $10.5MM contract ($3.5MM AAV) will expire at the end of this season and includes a no-trade list of just ten teams. The 30-year-old played more than 26 minutes last night against the Blue Jackets and has been relied on more than he likely should throughout the season as the team has obviously felt the absences of defensemen like Shea Weber and Joel Edmundson.
Elliotte Friedman noted on the latest 32 Thoughts podcast that the St. Louis Blues are “very much in there” when it comes to Chiarot trade talks, adding that they’re not the only team involved. He believes that the pending free agent defenseman is likely the first move for new Canadiens GM Kent Hughes, who took over earlier this month.
Another name that has been brought up recently though is Jeff Petry, a player in a very different situation. Petry has three more years on his contract after this one, an extension that was only signed in 2020. He has a 15-team no-trade list and obviously signed to stay with the Canadiens, inking that four-year, $25MM deal as a perennial 40-point defenseman.
Hughes made it clear in a recent interview with La Presse that he’s open to moving Petry if there is a fit, but wouldn’t go so far as to guarantee it is coming soon. Friedman, meanwhile, explained how it might not be best to move him now:
All I’ll say with Petry is, there’s time. You can say ’okay, if someone wants to do it now, they can do it now.’ But because he’s got term, you can wait until the summer. The one thing about now is that there’s not a lot of cap space. If you trade a Chiarot, and you’re retaining [salary] to make your deal better you only have to do it for now. If you’re trading a Petry and have to retain, there’s term on that.
Among the biggest reasons for Montreal’s demise has been the stark difference in play from Petry, who has just six points in 37 games after posting four consecutive seasons with at least 11 goals and 40 points. In last year’s shortened campaign, he put those numbers up in just 55 games, playing incredible hockey all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. At age 34 with three more years of term, he won’t be an easy deal to make even if someone believes they can get him back to his previous levels.